URSA Engage Program 2013
Position Descriptions for Students to Apply For


Faculty Name & Department/School: Dr. Virginia Weis: Department of Zoology


Research Project Title: Understanding coral-algal symbioses


Project Overview: 

Corals are the cornerstone of an entire ecosystem and can build stone structures that can be seen from space! Their success is largely dependent upon a beneficial symbiosis with a marine algae called Symbiodinium. There are many types of Symbiodinium available on a coral reef, but corals are able to find one, or a few, strain(s) that fit them best. To help understand why they are so selective, this project will utilize the sea anemone Aiptasia as a model. Different strains of Symbiodinium will be used to inoculate separate anemone clones to determine differences in the host’s growth and reproduction.


What skills will students obtain in this project? 

Students will learn basic molecular biology skills such as DNA extraction and amplification. Students will learn how to genetically identify Symbiodinium strains and how to generate, interpret, and utilize DNA sequence data. Basic microscopy, cell counts and potentially histology will be taught to visualize Symbiodinium. Students will also be introduced to culturing of algae and husbandry of marine animals.


Student research tasks: 

The student will extract DNA from cultured Symbiodinium isolated from many different coral hosts and amplify several different genes to find genetic differences. He/She will then inoculate cultures into non-symbiotic anemones and follow the progression of infection macro- and microscopically. The student will assess growth, Symbiodinium density within the host, and asexual (clonal) reproduction of the anemone.


Period of work - Spring and Fall


Number of hours per week expected of student: 5   


Preferred Faculty Contact Information: weisv@science.oregonstate.edu

(note - applications are NOT sent to mentors - see instructions)


q Yes    x No:   Human Subjects 

q Yes    xNo:   Live Vertebrate Animals

q Yes    x  No:   Recombinant DNA Molecules Transgenic Plants or Animal, and/or Infectious Agents of Plants, Animals, or Humans

q Yes    x  No:   Ionizing Radiation

q Yes    x  No:   Chemical Carcinogens

q Yes    x  No:   Scuba Diving, Free Diving

q Yes    x  No:   Small Boating Operations


If you are interested in applying for this position, you MUST complete the student application HERE and email it to Dr. Kevin Ahern at ahernk@onid.orst.edu

Do NOT email your application to the faculty mentor.